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The four yogas

yoga, health, jnana, wisdom, Patanjali

The philosophical teachings of Hinduism has stood the test of time for thousands of years and still remains strong due to the sound principles on which it is based. Today universities, business schools even in the west adopt more and more essence of Hindu philosophy in teaching Management, Leadership etc. Hindu Sages long back established Dharma Shastra and Smrithis which teach us normal conduct in performing work, and the four Yogas i,e Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga and Jnana Yoga are the Spiritual discipline to follow Dharma.

Yoga is derived from Sanskrit word yuja, which means join or weld together, there is no exact equivalent word in English for Yoga but approximately it relates to word yoke. Yoga is the union of body, mind and spirit, it is the union of ‘I’ with the divine intelligence that govern the universe, it is separation of ‘I’ from objects of physical sensation in the material world. It is science or skill of easy steps to self-realization. Yoga is a state where in the biological elements of an individual are in harmonious interaction with elements of cosmos. About 2500 years back contrary to the belief that heart is the seat of consciousness, the yogis said brain with nervous system consisting of 72000 nadis or nerves with innumerable nerve endings is one unit representing the physical medium of human consciousness. Individual’s physical and mental well being depends on the fine adjustment of nervous system. Yoga restraints ageing deterioration of nervous system and establishes full control on the system.

Karma yoga is the practice of action, one must act in this world and this yoga seeks awareness to actions, it is the Yoga of selfless detached action, means detach from the consequences of action so that you don’t perform them for your own benefit. The ultimate expression of Karma yoga is the recognition that all action belongs to the Supreme Being. The inner dialogue of a Karma yogi is
"I am an instrument of the eternal infinite being, every breath of mine, every act of mine is a divine movement of the infinite, my thoughts and actions come from the infinite and return to the infinite"
In Bhagavad-Gita Krishna says:

“You offer up your action as a gift of god and you are doing this because it is correct thing to do, in this way you avoid accumulating karma”

The karma yogi thinks he is only an instrument, through him god is performing the action and will take care of consequences, a karma yogi have no anxiety and worry. Karma Yoga reminds us to think of and serve others especially those who can’t help themselves, the very poor, old, sick.

Raja yoga is known as kingly yoga and attributed to Patanjali who was the originator of the yoga system. Raja yoga is frequently referred to as the royal path of yoga because it is rich in knowledge and experience. Raja yoga is the path of union through practices that take your awareness inward. The essence of Raja yoga is the integration of body, mind, and soul through procedures that enhance mind-body coordination. Raja Yoga emphasizes on controlling the mind, the senses, the life force, thought, breath and most other aspects of life. The Patanjali’s yoga scriptures consist of four volumes giving analysis and explanation of the body, mind, psychic system, cause and removal of suffering and delusion. The Raja yoga is also called as Ashtanga yoga as it is based on eight steps Yama, Niyama, Asana, Pranayama, Pratyahara, Dharana, Dhyana, and Samadhi. These steps awaken poise, grace, strength, awareness and result in integration of body, mind and soul. One who practices Raja Yoga who is referred, as Raja yogi will experience improved physical health, mental clarity, and heightened sense of perception with greater enjoyment of life. Enthusiasm and inspiration become an everyday experience for Raja yogis. Raja yoga can be practiced by anyone with a little bit of training, a Raja Yogi finds it extremely easy to practice other yogas. Raja Yoga a step-by-step path to truth or enlightenment appears to be more scientific, it is very convincing and attractive to the western minds. A Raja Yogi will feel physically vital, will be emotionally stable and psychologically centered, his ability to express compassion would be expanded. Hatha Yoga is often included as part of Raja Yoga but many also see it as separate and complete.

Bhakti yoga is the yoga of devotion and love, it teaches to see and feel god in all people and all actions. One way of practicing this yoga is through prayer, singing, devotional practice, study of scriptures, remembrance of god, service and rituals. It is total self-surrender to god, Bhakti yoga leads one to bliss and oneness with god. In the journey of Bhakti yoga one may go through stages of attraction, infatuation, communion, intimacy, surrender, passion and ecstasy. Great devotees like Purandaradasa, Kanakadhasa, Thyagaraja and many more were examples of Bhakti Yogis. Bhakti is love of god and also the tone and blossoming of love in all relationships. We can discover our higher self through our relationships with others. The Bhakti yoga that is also referred as Yoga of love is a wonderful path, but one should not confuse love with self-absorption, self-importance, or self-pity. Bkakti yoga says that the divine of god resides in all living and non-living things, Bhakti Yoga emphasizes looking at all things with love, expressing love, responding to gestures of love and making the love as basis of all choices.

Jnana yoga is the yoga of wisdom, it is also yoga of mysticism and philosophy, it is also the yoga of science. Nature’s laws are the basis of science, and nature’s laws are thoughts of god. Jnana yoga encourages questioning, it is seeing and being, ask and discover rather than follow and believe. The Jnana yoga is based on the study of oneself, the yoga suggests that divine love, truth, god-consciousness come into beings when obstruction of ignorance and illusion are removed. In its fundamentals Jnana even denies that we are separate from god. Jnana yoga has also been called as the pathless path, it endeavors to free one from conditioning and limitation of knowledge. It emphasizes that one doesn’t need a technique, rituals or beliefs, he has to opens his eyes and then he will begin to see the beauty and sacredness around him, one need to end illusion and delusion. This yoga in our old scriptures is also referred as “razor’s edge” and one has to be careful as the knowledge can lead to arrogance defeating the very objective of path.

For un-awakened eyes these four Yogas look like contradicting each other, Bhakti says have faith, Jnana says question everything. Raja says control your mind, Jnana says the controller is that which you are trying to control! In reality they are compatible and they are different paths to same destination. One of the Rishis has used a metaphor to explain the four yogas, he has compared the four yogas to a bird. Raja Yoga is the tail, steering, steadying and guiding the bird with control. Bhakti and Karma, love-devotion and action are the wings propelling it forward. Jnana is the head, seeing and guiding the bird towards the light, bird needs all the parts to fly, so all the four yogas for a being.
Published: 2007-04-17
Author: Prakasha Shanbog

About the author or the publisher
Resume of Prakasha M S

Prakasha MS,
B2, Panchali Apt, 15 Cross, JP Nagar, III Phase
Bangalore – 560 078, I N D I A
Ph: +91 9845371088 (m)


Authored several short stories, articles, interested in variety of subjects, written stories based on divergent subjects. Stories are published in local newspaper published.

Has over 25 years of experience in Global organizations like Oracle, HCL Perot, Alstom, Bharat Electronics ltd.

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